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Molino makes Hasely Crawford Stadium dance, T&T edge Panama 1-0 to restore WCQ dreams

A pinpoint low strike from Trinidad and Tobago attacking midfielder Kevin Molino breathed fresh life into the Soca Warriors’ Russia 2018 World Cup campaign tonight as they edged Panama 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

It also marked a triumphant debut for former World Cup 2006 defender Dennis Lawrence who made his first outing as a head coach tonight.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

There was the odd flutter at the back but, largely, it was a serene outing for Trinidad and Tobago who defended resolutely and never looked in danger of a third successive CONCACAF Hex defeat.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams targeted four points from his team’s two home matches against Panama tonight and Mexico on Tuesday—but few thought it was a realistic ask. That might be about to change though.

There were roughly 6,000 spectators at the Hasely Crawford Stadium at kick-off and, by halftime, there were barely 10,000 patrons in a venue built for 23,000. It was a huge drop off in attendance that should prompt some soul-searching within the local football body.

But, more importantly, the Warriors showed up.

On paper, Lawrence had a crisis at centre-back with Radanfah Abu Bakr and Carlyle Mitchell injured and Sheldon Bateau suspended. In their places, he started two Pro League players, Daneil Cyrus and Curtis Gonzales. The latter defender was making his first appearance of the World Cup campaign while the former’s calamitous form was partly responsible for Trinidad and Tobago’s woeful start in the Hex.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) tries to escape from Panama midfielder Amilcar Henriquez (right) during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) tries to escape from Panama midfielder Amilcar Henriquez (right) during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

It would be a stretch to say the pair were flawless tonight. But it was close enough. In truth, their jobs were made easier by a solid defensive shape that offered little space to their Central American opponents down the middle while full-backs Carlos Edwards and Mekeil Williams held their own on either flank.

In their last seven outings, Panama managed just five goals—and that included home matches against Belize, Nicaragua and El Salvador—and their lack of offensive presence haunted them again in Port-of-Spain.

Joevin Jones gave early warning that the hosts meant business with a dipping shot from 25 yards in the 13th minute, which needed to be helped over by opposing goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Yet, it still seemed to be a pleasant surprise when Molino opened the scoring with a sweet, precise low effort from just outside the penalty area in the 37th minute.

It was Molino’s first appearance of the Hex after a two-match internal suspension for twice breaking the team’s curfew to party. Tonight, the dancehall king set the Hasely Crawford Stadium dancing.

Incidentally, Panama central defender Roman Torres was off the field attending to his footwear at the time. It was a costly wardrobe malfunction.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Alongside Molino, Kenwyne Jones rolled back the years with an energetic, bustling performance that stretched the opposing backline and created space for his namesake, Joevin, and the scorer to operate.

In the first half alone, Kenwyne probably made more sprints that he had in the last two games combined. It was always likely that the giant forward had more to contribute to his country’s cause once he returned to full fitness.

It was not a particular fluent performance yet from the Warriors—and Lawrence met most of his players for the first time just this week. But the hosts looked more dangerous for much of the game.

Molino ran on to a Kenwyne flick on in the 61st minute and Torres looked a fraction late with his shoulder challenge, as defender and attacker fell to the ground in a heap.

Penalties have been awarded for less. But Honduran referee Orlando Matamoros waved play on.

Then in the 67th minute came what might have been the play of the match.

Kenwyne chased a ball over the top and surprised opposing defender Felipe Baloy with his turn of pace. The sphere was about to roll across the goal line when the Atlanta United forward caught up to it and Baloy lunged in to block the expected cross.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones (left) outruns Panama central defender Roman Torres during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones (left) outruns Panama central defender Roman Torres during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Instead, Kenwyne chopped the ball inside of his opponent and Baloy went flying so far off the field that he might have needed a taxi to get back to the ground.

But then, with three Trinidad and Tobago attackers outnumbering the two Panamanian defenders in the area, Kenwyne tried to surprise the goalkeeper at his near post and hooked the ball disappointingly wide with his left foot.

Joevin and substitute Levi Garcia, who were waiting for the cross, were not impressed. For Kenwyne’s critics, it was the fuel they had been looking for.

However, the more knowledgeable football fans surely could not help but notice that Trinidad and Tobago are a far more dangerous team when the big number nine is playing well, even when he is not scoring.

The lineman’s flag denied Panama substitute Luis Tejada, who drove the ball between the legs of Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams in the 75th minute. And opposing midfielder Anibal Godoy had two decent looks in the last 15 minutes but failed to take either while Cyrus put hearts in mouth with a slash in his own box in the dying seconds of the game.

The last 10 minutes apart, though, Trinidad and Tobago deserved the win.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The Warriors remain second from bottom with three points but trail fourth-placed United States by just goal difference. And fourth is good enough for the FIFA Play-offs.

Mexico lead the group with seven points while Costa Rica are second with six. But only one point separates third-placed Panama (four points) and table-proppers Honduras (three points).

A draw against Mexico on Tuesday can keep the Warriors close to the pack, even as United States surge up the standings. A win over Mexico could move Trinidad and Tobago to fourth.

Only three of the 14 players used by Lawrence tonight are playing regular competitive football at present while eight of them are in either post-season or pre-season. It will be hard for them to maintain tonight’s energy levels in four days’ time.

Bateau is available again and Lawrence might consider making another change or two to freshen his team up. The six-foot-seven coach did little wrong tonight and he will no doubt relish the challenge.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 11.Carlos Edwards, 25.Curtis Gonzales, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 17.Mekeil Williams; 19.Kevan George, 8.Khaleem Hyland; 7.Cordell Cato (16.Levi Garcia 64), 10.Kevin Molino (13.Hughtun Hector 79), 3.Joevin Jones; 9.Kenwyne Jones (captain) (20.Jamille Boatswain 83).

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 12.Hashim Arcia, 14.Andre Boucaud, 18.Tristan Hodge, 23.Leston Paul, 26.Willis Plaza, 27.Nathan Lewis.

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Panama (4-1-4-1): 1.Jaime Penedo (GK); 13.Adolfo Machado (2.Michael Amir 74), 23.Felipe Baloy (captain), 5.Roman Torres, 17.Luis Ovalle; 21.Amilcar Henriquez; 8.Edgar Barcenas (9.Gabriel Torres 63), 11.Armando Cooper, 20.Anibal Godoy, 19.Alberto Quintero (18.Luis Tejada 57); 22.Abdiel Arroyo.

Unused substitutes: 12.Jose Calderon (GK), 3.Jan Carlos, 4.Roderick Miller, 7.Oscar Villarreal, 10.Alejandro Taylor, 14.Miguel Camargo, 16.Josiel Nunez, 15.Eric Davis.

Coach: Hernan Gomez

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

World Cup qualifiers

(Friday 24 March 2017)

Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Kevin Molino 37), Panama 0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.

Mexico (Javier Hernandez 5, Nester Araujo 45), Costa Rica 0 at the Estadio Azteca, Mexico City;

United States 6 (Sebastian LLetget 5, Michael Bradley 27, Clint Dempsey 32, 49, 54, Christian Pulisic 46), Honduras 0 at the Avaya Stadium, California.

 

CONCACAF Hex Standings

(Tabulated as Played-Won-Drawn-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)

Mexico              3-2-1-0-4-1-7

Costa Rica       3-2-0-1-6-2-6

Panama            3-1-1-1-1-1-4

United States 3-1-0-2-7-6-3

T&T                    3-1-0-2-2-5-3

Honduras       3-1-0-2-3-8-3

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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298 comments

  1. There is no reason why T&T can’t get 4th in the group. Panama and Honduras are possibly weaker sides.

  2. USA cut Honduras tail last night. So they are now above us in the Hex. We definitely have our work cut out for us. Staying positive

  3. I agree with you Vijai Ramsawak, in the second half T&T were sitting on that lead while when into what sports commentator’s call “throwing the kitchen sink” at us

  4. we need to press more…pressure d opposition harder during our homes games…we need to put them on d ropes for 90 mins…we need to step up our game

  5. Lasana Liburd, Dennis philosophy possession with purpose ,seeing the posession and like it , high pressing like it , squeezeing like it ,covering like it and I could see the GPS working .The purpose within game management needs some work. Mexiico players have height issues , would like to see carlos , jovlin and levi running at them wipping in crosses targeting kenwyne , second ball boatswain ,molino . Feeling we go hold Mexico and wok them next.

  6. This is what happens when we believe in ourselves, and when we believe in our own, was impressed by the professionalism and confidence displayed by Lawrence from the get go.

  7. Where KJ got that burst of speed from boy ? ? ? . After the game the outlook seem to be TT 4 – P’Ma 1 .

  8. Congrats well done ah wonder what all the JONES haters saying now after that big performance last night he won all the balls in defence and in attack was one of his best if not his best performance for TNT well done guys we jamming still Hart will be proud of you all

  9. ?????? T&T Represent ??????⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽

  10. Congratulations T&T. Continue to make us smile. We need it. Much love Dennis and the team and blessings of continued success.

  11. we must sharpen up in defence against Mexico, keep a high tempo, play till the final whistle, goals win games, clinical finishing are attributes we must showcase Tuesday night. Let the latinos quarrel among themselves as did the Panama coaches after the game. Football is life and economy in those countries, we must adopt that culture at all levels in our football regime.

  12. Well done Soca Squad…….3 pts is needed when you play at home

  13. We played decent, I feel we can do even better than this. It seemed the players were getting tired towards the end and dropped behind the line, can’t do that we gotta keep possession and let Panama chase us. Overall I’m happy with the result and hope we go into the Mexico game with this momentum. Go T&T!! ??????????????

  14. Well way to go, do not rest on your laurels, many roadblocks on the way. Congratulations!

  15. Coach has brought some much needed energy to the team.

  16. could not make it live at stadium this time. Saw first half. Was a good showing. Did you attended the post match conference? What were the comments?

  17. Nice win…..mexico next……we can’t park d bus ……we not good at dat…..we hadda take ah page from dem 2 draws and press dem in d middle third…..can’t afford to sit off them

    Warriors.!!!!!

  18. Give credit where is due. KJ played hard, the team had good shape and we deserved the 3 points. Well done Tallest

  19. A much need victory. I hope the team watching mexico because is pace

  20. Ah hope the T&T team and staff watching the Mexico game right now.

  21. We got the result. Congrats to the team and coach! #SocaWarriors

  22. Molina is key to this team … He brings that extra creativity and killer moment of magic to the table which decides games.

  23. Joevin showed class and professionalism by grabbing those last 2 minutes to secure the victory. Brilliant!

  24. btw anybody know if d game show on flow sports cuz i didnt see it on flow sports

  25. Yea a lot more dynamic and fitter KJ

  26. Real nice game love de possession and de confidence de players showed in their passin from the back every body put in a good shift. Well done TNT on to mexico

  27. see how empty d stadium is tonight but let d boys start to do good place go be pack

  28. We are all humans and we live and learn but the team needs him if we are to go anywhere

  29. Where are all the ppl that called for Kevin Nash Molino not to play for the country again….

  30. Man of the match daneil Cyrus!

  31. Molino should’ve gotten a penalty if that shove was in the box

  32. Panama wont qualify for World Cup. Mark my word.,

  33. Mexico is missing half of the starters but if you think you can concede to Peralta Vela and Chicharito those chances like tonight you are in for a rude awakening.

  34. We played a scrappy 2nd half. Good to see Kenwyne Jones outrunning players younger than him.

  35. Yeah, J. Thought KJ looked a lot faster today and the team in general stayed the pace for 80 mins. A lot better all round.

  36. Told you we winning this game… And we beating Mexico too. Dennis Lawrence is about to become a legend.

  37. Good performance….. Points on the board

  38. We lucky no arse. But say what, a win is a win.